And here's the race. Nothing more to say about it before it starts!

Chapter 5: Anything goes

Bowser, despite his large size, took off the second-fastest, running ahead behind Fox, who zoomed ahead speedily.

Zelda, who used her magic to transform into her alter-ego Sheik, followed Bowser, with Pikachu, zigzagging along the ground, running right next to her.

Next up was Joanna, followed by the slowest runners, Malon, Jigglypuff, Luigi and Young Link.

Bowser looked behind to see how his team was doing, and let out a disgusted cry as he spotted Luigi lagging behind the pack and already looking exhausted. He skidded to a stop, turned and ran back towards the plumber, scattering the rest of the racers as he barrelled past.

Luigi saw Bowser coming back for him, and held up his hands in defence.
"Bowser, stop! I'm sorry I'm so slow! Don't squash me!" He pleaded, as the Lizard King seized him and picked him off the ground.

"Argh! What are you doing?" Luigi wailed, struggling to get free of his grip.

"Keep still! I'm going to give you a boost, since you obviously can't keep up!" Bowser snarled. He wound back his arm, and then with a gargantuan heave, hurled the plumber through the air.
"Help meeeeee!" Luigi cried, shooting like a rocket straight over the heads of the other racers.

Fox cursed as Luigi over-took him, and watched as the plumber disappeared in the distance. A couple of minutes later, another rocket flew by him, this one a yellow blur as Pikachu was in turn picked up and thrown by Bowser.

Fox looked over his shoulder just in time to see a wall of orange fire streaking toward him. He yelped and rolled to the side at the last minute, the fire still managing to singe his fur, and looked up from the ground angrily as Bowser roared past, laughing to himself.

"Play fair for a change, you cheat!" He yelled after the Lizard King, who only laughed louder and with more enjoyment.

Fox got up, and turned to look at the racers behind him. Having lost the lead, he figured that he might as well wait for his team to catch up. Soon enough he was over-passed by Malon, and then Jigglypuff, who gave him a sympathetic look as she bobbed past.

Where are they? He thought, getting worried. I thought Joanna was right behind me?
Then, Young Link and Joanna emerged over a small hill. Fox waited until they caught up to him, and then asked "What happened?"

Joanna shrugged. "The kid was having some trouble keeping up, so I thought I might as well run beside him. If we all can't get to the castle first, then what's the point of making this just a free-for-all competition?"

Fox beamed, feeling unexpectedly proud of Joanna's actions. "That was good of you." He told her.

Young Link bowed his head in shame, panting heavily. "I'm not as fast over long-distance as you guys! I'm sorry to let you down."

Fox ruffled Young Link's hair. "You haven't let anyone down, kid. Now come on-we still have a chance in this."

Behind Young Link, Joanna looked disbelieving.

Suddenly, a carriage drove up beside them, and Master Hand leaned out the window.
"You guys better hurry if you want to win this. The first land-marks a bridge, you know." He shouted, before the carriage drove off again.

Fox groaned.

Bowser, feeling elated, spotted the bridge in front of him, framed by thick forest growth and hanging over a large trench, formed by two cliffs. He reached the bridge, and glanced down between the wooden planks, to see running water pass far down below.

An idea immediately came to him. Chuckling to himself, he quickly bounded over the bridge, which swayed under his weight. He reached the other side, and, looking around, spotted Pikachu lying near-by on the ground, groaning to itself.
"Hey, rat!" He shouted, running over to it. "Did the plumber cross the bridge yet?"
"Pika…" Pikachu moaned, obviously stunned and in no condition to answer any questions.

"Bah!" Bowser said, and moved back to the bridge.

He waited for a few seconds, growing more and more anxious. Finally, Luigi arrived at the other side of the bridge, his body scuffed and dirty, with leaves in his hair.
"Bowser!" He cried, making his way onto the bridge. "You idiot! I could have broken something!"
"Just run, you fool!" Bowser roared.

Luigi growled, but kept running. The plumber had only reached the middle of the bridge, when Sheik leaped onto the bridge from the bank, and started running speedily forward, moving more then double Luigi's speed.

The plumber spotted Sheik behind him, yelped, and tried to run faster.
But it was obvious to Bowser that Sheik would get across the bridge first. He grinned.

Sacrifices must be made! He thought wildly.

He took a deep breath, readying his fire ducts.

Luigi realized with horror what Bowser was about to do.
"No! Wait until I'm across!" He wailed desperately.

Bowser let loose his fireball, which engulfed the ropes and planks of the bridge on his side. The ropes began to give way, and Sheik and Luigi hurriedly turned around and headed back to the bank on the other side.

Sheik leaped through the air, landing unsteadily on the bank and rolling forward. Luigi was not so lucky. As the bridge gave away and swung like a rope into the side of the cliff, the plumber was still on the bridge.

"BOWSER IHATE YOOouuuuu…" Luigi cried, as he plummeted toward the water, his arms and legs flailing.

Bowser laughed, enjoying the game immensely.

"Good luck getting across!" He called cheerfully to Sheik, who was now on her feet and glaring over at Bowser with indignation.

Malon and Jigglypuff ran breathlessly up to Sheik, who was standing at the edge of a cliff and peering over it.

"What…just happened?" Jigglypuff gasped. "And who was that yelling?"

Sheik turned angrily to face the pokemon. "Bowser just toasted the bridge!" She said. "Not only that, but he sacrificed a member of his team!"

"Who? Luigi?" Jigglypuff guessed, raising a hand to her mouth in horror. "Is he okay?"
"I'm sure he's fine." Sheik said, shrugging. "But now we have no way across, and going around will take too much time."

"Hey, you know what this means?" Malon spoke up. "Since Luigi probably won't be able to get back to the castle before any of us, Bowser's team can't win the competition!"

Jigglypuff nodded. "That's true! I'm sure Bowser would have realized that, though. He must be after the individual prize."

"So our odds of winning have increased, but what do we do about this?" Sheik asked, indicating the gap before them.

"I can get us across," Jigglypuff said, with sudden confidence.

She puffed up her body to its fullest, waddled toward the edge, and launched herself over the gap. She heard Malon gasp in shock behind her.

Puffing her body every few feet, she managed to keep air-born, and by the time she landed safely on the cliff on the other side, her body was back to her normal size.

She turned to face the two girls. "Sheik! Do you have some rope on you?" She called over.

For a reply, Sheik uncovered a coil of rope from herself, and tossed over one of the ends to Jigglypuff. The pokemon caught the rope and wound it around a tree, tying it tight.

Sheik tied her own end around a tree, and then turned to Malon with a smirk.
"Well, farm-girl, across you go! This'll show us whether you're fit for this competition or not." She said in a condescending tone.

Malon glared back at Sheik, but made herself walk tentatively to the edge of the cliff. Looking down at the fast-running water down below, she gulped.

Can't quit now…not with Zelda watching! She thought, and with shaking hands grabbed the taut rope and began to go hand over-hand across it, hanging upside down over the dizzying drop.

Half-way across, one of her feet lost its grip on the rope, and her legs swung down so that she was hanging vertical under the rope, only hanging on with both her hands. She cried out in fright, kicking her feet and trying to swing her legs back up onto the rope. But she didn't seem to have the energy, and she could feel her grip on the rope loosening.
"Hang on, Malon! Get back up!" She heard Jigglypuff cry, her voice thick with dread.

"Malon, you idiot! Swing harder!" Sheik yelled at her.

Despite the danger, Malon felt anger. Stupid Zelda! Acting as if it's a really simple thing to do…she cursed to herself.

She grunted and swung her legs forward and up one more time, and barely managed to snag the rope with her feet. She wrapped her legs around the rope once more, her heart thudding painfully. Closing her eyes shut tight, she quickly moved along the rope towards the bank where Jigglypuff stood, afraid of losing her grip again.

At last, she sensed she was above land, so she carefully lowered her feet, felt the earth, and let go of the rope, landing on the bank with a huge feeling or relief.

Jigglypuff patted her shoulder. "You did great, Malon! I wouldn't have been able to recover like you did…"

Malon nodded distractedly, too exhausted to speak.

She looked up in time to see Sheik quickly move across the rope in the space of seconds. After she touched down on the bank, she turned and, drawing a knife, cut the rope in a place that hung over the water, so that the rope dropped to the cliff's side much like the rope bridge had before it.

"Now the rope's too short for the other team to use to get across," she explained idly.

She glanced down at Malon, who was still on her hands and knees on the ground, and raised an eyebrow.
"No time for rest now. Come on, we've pretty much got this thing in the bag." She said.

Up ahead, Bowser emerged scratched and beaten from the small forest he had decided to enter, which he now knew had been a big mistake. At a distance, the trees had looked passable enough, but as soon as the Lizard King had entered, he had stumbled into a mass of thorns and brambles, which scratched and tore at his body.
More out of stubbornness then anything else, Bowser had continued through the brambles, refusing to backtrack the way he had come. His massive shell protected him from the majority of the vicious plant-life, but the front of his body fared less well.

Now, finally back out in the open, Bowser looked up and spotted the castle, now much nearer then it had ever been. He gave a cry of triumph and ambled onward toward the finish line. Only a long stretch of open plains stood before him and victory.

He shook Pikachu, who he had picked up and carried in his arms with him ever since he had torched the bridge. He hadn't done it out of sympathy, though: instead he figured that he may need the rodent's lightning, in case one of the other teams tried to overtake him at the last moment.

"Look alive, rat! If you see anyone trying to sneak up behind me, zap 'em! Get up on my shell so you can watch my back." He commanded, and placed Pikachu on his spiky back.
Pikachu sat down on a safe place on Bowser's shell between the spikes that dotted his back, and watched the landscape ahead of it, its arms folded grumpily across its chest. It still had its night-cap on, and so far it reflected that it definitely wasn't enjoying the race.

Fox, Joanna Dark and Young Link stood in front of the ruined bridge, the expression on their faces grim.

"I thought someone would be cruel enough to destroy the bridge," Fox said, shaking his head and sighing.

Joanna peered over the edge. "There's a rope here, but it's been cut. Looks too short to get us across safely, even if we could somehow tie it to something on the other side." She announced.

Young Link sank to the grass miserably. "This isn't fair!" He wailed. "First, we're not fast enough, and now, the other teams cheat so we can't go on!"

"Well, it's not exactly cheating…" Joanna muttered, which didn't do anything to cheer Young Link up.

Fox nodded in agreement. "Master Hand did say anything goes, yeah."

Joanna's gaze clouded, and then her eyes sparkled unexpectedly, her lips widening in a grin.

"Anything goes, right? If they want to play it like that, why don't we simply fly across this gap? Or even to the very castle itself?" She said excitedly, and Young Link and Fox stared at her in confusion as she took out a small radio from her back pocket.

"What are you-?" Young Link started to say, but was hushed by the agent.

"This is Agent Dark…any drop-ships in my area, sound off?" She spoke into the radio.

There was silence for several seconds, and then the radio crackled to life.
"…Dark? This is Firebird. I'm in the area, what can I do for you?" A man's voice came through.

Joanna looked more hopeful now. "Firebird, I need a pick-up right away at these coordinates"-and she rattled off a series of numbers. "Can you make it? Over."

Again a pause before the pilot responded. "I, ah, should be able to get there in a minute or two. But you know Carrington doesn't like you using his drop-ships like a taxi service. Is this urgent, and relating to a current mission? Over." The pilot asked.

Joanna hesitated before answering. "Um, you could say I'm on a mission right now, yeah." She lied. "Just get here right away, will you? Over."

"…copy that. I'll be there soon. Over." The pilot said.

Joanna put the radio away, and grinned cheekily at Fox and Young Link.

"Okay, now this feels pretty cheap," Fox pointed out.

Joanna shrugged. "Maybe, but we'll lose unless we try this."

Young Link jumped up from the ground with enthusiasm. "So, I get to ride on this drop-ship? Awesome!" He said happily.

Fox shook his head, but he couldn't help grinning. It was a pretty good idea, he conceded to himself. In fact, if he had been carrying anything to call his own small spaceship in, he would consider doing so.

Malon and Jigglypuff struggled to keep up with Sheik, who was moving speedily across the open plains.

"Come on!" Sheik called over her shoulder. "We're getting close to the castle now, and I know a good short-cut we can use!"

"I'm going to sleep all day tomorrow after this!" Jigglypuff panted, her small feet aching.

Suddenly, Sheik stopped next to what looked like the opening of a small cave, leading into a hill.

"This will take us right up to the path leading to the front door of the castle," Sheik explained as Jigglypuff and Malon ran up to her, nodding at the cave.

"How long will it take?" Malon suddenly asked. "Because I think I've got a much faster way to get there…"

Sheik groaned aloud. "Trust me; I know these grounds very well. There isn't a quicker way."

"But-" Malon began, but Sheik cut her off.
"Malon! We can't afford to stand around talking…let's go!" She snapped, and ran into the cave's entrance.

The farm girl opened her mouth to shout after Zelda, to convince her not to go that way, but then gave up. She looked down at Jigglypuff.
"You follow her, then," she said, shrugging. "I'll go my way, and meet you guys at the castle. I'll probably get there before you, as well."

Jigglypuff looked apologetic. "I'm sorry she's acting like this…she's not normally so…up-tight! It must be the lack of sleep or something. I'll follow her and tell her what you're doing. Good luck!" And with that the pokemon disappeared into the cave.

Malon shook her head bitterly. If Zelda wants to act like that, then fine. She thought. I'll show her who's right by beating her to the castle.

She took a deep breath, and then began to hum a tune loudly, swaying on the spot. She had just reached the end of the melody when she heard a loud neighing sound, and looked up to see Epona emerge over a crest and gallop down to her.

She smiled lovingly at the horse, stroking its long neck. Link had not been riding Epona for a while, so the Hyrulian had dropped the horse at Malon's farm a couple of weeks ago, which he reasoned would be a more enjoyable location for the horse.

Malon had ridden the horse up to the castle yesterday from her farm, and then had left the horse outside the castle so that it could graze freely.

She quickly mounted Epona, and directed the horse towards the castle, where it broke into a sprint.

The air blowing through her hair, she grinned to herself as Epona took her speedily towards her destination.

Zelda should have listened to me…

The drop-ship touched down relatively noiselessly in a small clearing near the destroyed bridge. Jet-black and sharp-like with a pointy noise, the drop-ship had no propellers to speak of, being more like a jet then a helicopter. Unlike a jet, however, both its sides were wide open to allow passengers easy-access.

Young Link scrambled eagerly onto the drop-ship and made his way to the front seat of the aircraft, buckling himself in next to the pilot and grinning over at him.

The pilot, a young man wearing a helmet equipped with a head-set, took a long look at the unexpected passenger, then turned around in his seat to watch as Joanna hopped on board, followed by Fox, who made the pilot do a double-take.

"Stop gawking and take off!" Joanna snapped, and then added more nicely, "and thanks for coming to pick us up." She strapped herself into a seat next to Fox.

"Um…sure, right," the pilot said, coughing, and the drop-ship started to ascend.

"This is great!" Young Link enthused, leaning forward and looking at the assorted controls and lights in front of him. "Hey, what's this button do?"
"Don't touch!" The pilot yelled, and Young Link looked downcast, but only for a few seconds.

"To the castle, and hurry!" Joanna instructed.

Almost there! Bowser gloated to himself, running up the stone path that led to the front door of the castle.
Suddenly, he felt Pikachu jump up and down on his shell.
"PIKA! Pika!" The pokemon cried.

Bowser turned around quickly, and his eyes almost popped out of his head as he saw the air-craft streaking through the sky, straight towards him.

"WHAT THE!" He cried. "Oh no you don't, you're not getting past me that easily!" He sucked in a deep breath, and sent a fireball shooting straight at the drop-ship. The aircraft tried to dodge at the last minute, but was too slow, and the fireball struck it across its nose.

Bowser laughed loudly, but growled as the drop-ship continued on its path towards the castle. He grabbed Pikachu, and pointed it toward the ship.
"Zap them outta the sky, rat!" He boomed.

Pikachu looked up at the drop-ship, and its eyes grew as large as saucers. Then, shrugging, it raised its arms and shouted "Pikachu!", sending a bolt of lightning striking down from the heavens straight into the middle of the drop-ship.

Inside the drop-ship, Fox felt the aircraft lurch alarmingly as something slammed into it from above.
"What was that?" He yelled, leaning forward in his seat.

Young Link turned in his seat to call back, "Pikachu sent a bolt of lightning down on us!"

The pilot cursed and struggled with the controls. "Lightning?" He shouted. "What next? I think I'm going to have to get this baby outta here-another hit like that and it'll fry the circuits completely!"

"No!" Young Link cried in dismay. "We're so close! Just take Bowser out with a missile or something!"

The pilot scoffed, circling the castle. "I ain't got no weaponry on this ship. It's for agent retrieval and drop-off only!"

"And, we wouldn't want to risk killing Bowser anyway," Fox pointed out.

"Shame…"Joanna muttered, looking out the wall-less side of the craft at the ground. "Or else I'd just shoot Bowser from here with my gun."

The drop-ship circled back around to the front of the castle, and Fox cried out in dismay. He pointed at the ground. "Look! Bowser's running for the door! He's going to win the individual prize."

"Think we can get down fast enough to win the team prize?" Young Link asked, and Fox looked doubtful.

Suddenly, everyone's attention in the drop ship turned to a streaking light that had suddenly appeared, heading for Bowser.

"That's a missile!" The pilot yelled.

They watched as Bowser, perhaps sensing imminent danger, turned his head and spotted the missile. He halted mere feet from the door and the finish, and desperately tried to run to the left, away from the missile. Pikachu jumped down from Bowser's arms and sprinted ahead of Bowser, heading towards the moat of the castle.

The missile hit, metres behind Bowser and slamming into the stone bridge of the castle. The missile may have missed Bowser, but the shock-wave sent him and Pikachu flying away through the air, zooming towards the moat. They both fell into the water, sending out two different-sized splashes.

"Whoa!" Joanna cried, her voice half excited, half alarmed. "Where did that come from?"

"Over there!" Young Link pointed, and everyone turned to see the hovering form of another, vastly different air-craft, hovering in the distance.

"That's an Arwing!" Fox exclaimed, hardly believing it.

The pilot's hand flew to his helmet, and his head lowered in concentration.

"Someone's trying to get through on a channel…I'll patch him in." He said, and flipped several switches.

Over the radio, from the front of the drop-ship, a voice sprang to life.
"…Fox, you up there? It's Falco. I was in the area, so I couldn't help but keep an eye on how your team was doing! It looked like you needed a hand. I'm sorry if I broke any rules or anything, but I couldn't sit by and watch Bowser win. So once again you owe me, pal! See you later." Falco said.

Fox felt amazed. He had thought that Falco would have been long gone from the area.

The pilot shook his head, confused. "I have no idea what's going on here."

"Never mind that!" Joanna shouted excitedly. "Land! We can win this!"

The drop-ship touched down right next to the bridge-now with a large hole in it from the missile-which led to the front door of the castle. Immediately, Fox, Young Link and Joanna jumped out to the ground, and ran quickly across the bridge.

Fox was almost to the door when he heard a noise that sounded like horseshoes against stone. He increased his speed, straining for the door.

A horse skidded to a stop next to him, and he watched in amazement as Malon vaulted forward over the horses' neck, leaping through the air, and touched the door by landed against it with a grunt of pain.

Fox, Young Link and Joanna all touched the door at the same time, right behind Malon.

Malon sank to the floor, heaving and gasping, but laughing at the same time.
"I did it!" She wheezed, grinning with exhaustion.

"We did it!" Young Link cried, jumping up and down on the spot. "I mean, we get the team award, don't we?"

Joanna shrugged, looking worn out but satisfied. "Maybe, if we're not disqualified because of Falco."

Behind them, a carriage skidded to a stop just before the bridge, next to the drop-ship. Master Hand got out, and ran forward towards the four racers.

"That was great!" He cried. "Oh, the action! The foul play! I should have got some great footage from that!"

"Yeah, but who won?" Young Link asked impatiently.

"It looks to me that Malon won the race, and the individual prize, and Fox's team won the team prize." Master Hand said.

Young Link cheered happily, and Fox smiled with relief.

"So we're not disqualified?" He asked.

Master Hand shook his body, having no head to shake. "I said anything goes, didn't I? Your team wins."

Watching from the cockpit of the drop-ship, the pilot shook his head again. He still wasn't sure what was going on, but it almost looked like Joanna had been running in some weird race.

"It was urgent, huh?" He muttered to himself. "Something tells me Carrington's going to give me a talking to when I get back to base."

Let me explain something about this chapter...usually, when I'm writing a chapter of a story, and it's going well, it will take meseveral hours over acouple of nights to finish it. This chapter took several hours over five nights.
It's not because this is a very complicated story, but it was hard writing bits for all nine characters involved in the chapter. And the race was so hectic! Everything happening at once...for some reason, it just took me ages to get it done.

Right. Well, the next chapter will include the lastlittle bit about the race, and then I will focus on the other three teams, which we haven't even heard from yet! That's the problem with having heaps of characters.

Oh, a question: is Pikachu meant to be male or female? You may have noticed that I tried to refer to it as an "it" in these chapters...unless I slippedup and accidentally called it a "he" a few times. Now, I see Pikachu as a he, for some reason. But I think that in theanime, that particular Pikachu is meant to be female, right? I don't know. So, vote! Pikachu:male or female? If you don't speak up, I'll have to make it male.

On another note, when I upload these stories, I always add my intro and this last bit afterward, while I edit it. But this means that, when I go to "save changes", the site often clumps a lot of the words together, without spaces. So, it's not my fault!
Just had to explain that.

Why did I make Malon win the individual prize? It's not because she's my favourite character or anything. When I wrote it, I knew I wanted to make someone in Zelda's team win the individual prize, and I figured that realistically, Malon would have the best chance, by using Epona. That's all.

Also, you may notice that Zelda is To put it nicely, "mean" in these chapters. :p I might have over-did it, but that's what happens when she doesn't get sleep! Also, she's arguing with Malon, so that's making her extra grumpy. So don't hate her! She'll become nice again soon.

Sorry, too much to say! Please review this story! I've put a lot of effort into writing it, and a lot of hours.

P.S: Poor Luigi! He's fine though, don't worry. I just enjoy torturing him sometimes, he's such a funny character.